USHL Forward of the Year
Solow's Journey from Sunshine State to Beantown
Last summer proved to be very beneficial for Dubuque Fighting Saints center Zach Solow.
Coming off his first season playing in the United States Hockey League (USHL), he spent the off-season back home in Naples, Fla., working hard to improve his game.
“I went home and had a really good summer training. I worked on little plays in tight. I worked out on and off the ice with my friend, George Lucia, and my cousin, [Merrimack defenseman Jeff Solow]. They both pushed me to get better everyday,” Solow said.
That hard work began to pay off in August when he accepted a scholarship offer to play at Northeastern, a program that seemed to be a good fit for myriad reasons.
"The coaching staff was really nice and welcoming. Downtown Boston is a beautiful area,” Solow said. “The culture in the locker room was something you wanted to be a part of, and the Beanpot and Hockey East.”
With his college plans set in stone, Solow’s game began to take off on the ice. After scoring a modest eight goals and 17 assists in 39 USHL games during the end of the 2015-16 season, his production soared this year.
Solow registered a point or more in 46 of 56 games this winter, including a 20-game point streak that was the third-longest in Tier I history. He finished the regular season with 18 goals and 51 assists, which earned him USHL Forward of the Year honors.
“Just good preparation,” Solow said when asked about his consistency this season. “My linemates played well all season. They supported my game and we played well off each other.”
Standing 5-feet-9, Solow is a smaller forward whose strength has always been in his passing and vision.
“I’m definitely a pass-first player. I like to create plays and am always looking to pass," Solow said. "I like to make plays down low and do whatever it takes to generate offense. My hockey IQ and understanding the game help me do that."
With college hockey and the 2017 NHL Draft on the horizon, Solow is looking to become more of a goal scorer and round out his offensive game.
“I’m trying to work on being more of a shooter and put myself in better areas to score,” he said.
His junior coach, former Massachusetts-Lowell assistant Jason Lammers, has helped Solow develop into a prospect that could hear his name called at June’s NHL Draft.
“He has really believed in me. He gave me an opportunity. [The coaching staff] works with me on angles and power play stuff. They want me to have a playmaker’s mentality,” said Solow.
Being undersized, Solow isn’t garnering the type of NHL attention one might expect after such a productive season in the USHL. Still, he came in at 183 among North American Skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings that came out Tuesday.
“I’m not expecting anything unrealistic. Whatever happens happens. I’m not banking on anything. I know I just need to continue to work hard because even if I get drafted, that doesn’t mean anything,” Solow said.
Having grown up in Florida, the chances for Solow to get noticed by scouts and college coaches were few and far between. It’s why he spent his final season of midget hockey playing for the St. Louis Blues AAA in the T1EHL.
He never once made a USA Hockey Select Camp and didn’t hear his name called until the 14th round of the USHL Draft in 2014, proving that with hard work, one can overcome disadvantages of height and geography.
While the game continues to grow in Sunbelt regions of the country, what initially hooked Solow on the game of hockey wasn’t anything that occurred during the natural course of play.
“My dad and I were watching a game on TV and there was a fight. I told my dad I wanted to play hockey. He got hockey equipment and I just started playing,” Solow said.
With his junior career winding down, Solow has made quite a few memories in Dubuque, but hopes to have a few more after the 2017 Clark Cup Playoffs that begin Friday night.
The Fighting Saints, the second seed in the Eastern Conference, will face the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the best-of-five conference semifinals.
“They have forwards that are really fast. We need to stay on top of them and pressure them. We need to suffocate them, hem them in and play our game. That will hopefully lead to chances for us,” said Solow.
Solow was part of a Dubuque team that lost to the Tri-City Storm in the 2016 Clark Cup Final. He and linemate and Notre Dame commit Colin Theisen, who scored their 50th goal and 50th assist on the same play, will play a pivotal role for Dubuque.
Solow is expected to enroll for summer classes and be a key member of Jim Madigan’s freshman class at Northeastern when the 2017-18 season starts in October.